The definitive biography of Leni Riefenstahl, the woman best known as “Hitler’s filmmaker,” one of the most fascinating and controversial personalities of the twentieth century. It is the story of huge talent and huger ambition, one that probes the sometimes blurred borders dividing art and beauty from truth and humanity. Two of Riefenstahl’s films, Olympia and Triumph of the Will, are universally regarded as the greatest and most innovative documentaries ever made, but they are also insidious glorifications of Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich. Now, in this masterful new biography, Steven Bach reveals the truths and lies behind this gifted woman’s lifelong self-vindication as an apolitical artist who claimed she knew nothing of the Holocaust and denied her complicity with the criminal regime she both used and sanctified.
The facts and her actions, many unknown until now, bear chilling witness: her passionate enthusiasm for Hitler from her first reading of Mein Kampf; her involvements with Nazi leaders Joseph Goebbels, Martin Bormann, Albert Speer, and Julius Streicher, who advanced her career, and with Hitler, who personally helped finance it. We see her after the war trying to sell footage to Hollywood under an alias. Bach gives us an exceptional work of historical investigation that untangles the past and is also an appraisal of a woman of spectacular gifts.